Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Education, Inc.

Jeffrey explores the educational value, especially as it pertains to the old middle-class aspiration of "success" and the right-wing narrative of "not valuable unless it prepares you for a trade."

Because why would anyone need to know about history, literature, social science, and the humanities? I mean, isn't life more fun when we just make stuff up as we go along?

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4 comments:

Maitri said...

When the existing trades are less and less sustainable, it kinda behooves us to expand our horizons. Too bad that even in the social sciences and humanities, universities now tend to teach students that which is already known. As you can see, this has worked out swimmingly for Asian countries (that last sentence is sarcasm).

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Exactly. I can't remember learning anything new in many of the classes I took in college, it was like high school+++.

But those classes that did expose me to new ideas: Multicultural English Literature, Geography of South East Asian Economies, Ethnohisotry, Women in the Middle Ages, Native American History - those classes taught me a lot. And the critical thinking I learned from being challenged set the real foundation for my own labor being sustainable.

You can't learn problem-solving skills if you don't study how myriad problems have been approached and addressed.

Maitri said...

I can't remember learning anything new in many of the classes I took in college, it was like high school+++

That's not what I meant. In fact, there is a tremendous learning curve when even the brightest American kid gets college. In other words, the best American public high schools do not prepare their kids for the educational achievement level required in college.

What I meant was that American universities now lean towards boring lectures, rote memorization of (STEM and social science/humanities) facts and regurgitation of these facts on tests. Even discussion sections/sessions come back to pre-decided central points and themes. This is the Indian-Chinese university model that has landed those countries with a surplus of super-smart parrots who couldn't invent their way out of a box, which is why they try to come here for grad school (and we don't give them green cards after, so they go back to India/China to invent - *headdesk*)

Asia and America have diametrically-opposed education problems - great lower education and sucky higher education for the former and the inverse for us.

My brother and I were discussing just this recently and I pointed him to this article - http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/159/indian-engineers-education It's precisely why, if India succeeds in getting its elementary and secondary education shit together (by, again, getting government AND private political interests out of the way), WE ARE TOAST.

And to make things worse, Texas and Florida are going in exactly the wrong direction. Listen to Bloomberg - if you insist on fucking over your own, at least make way for those from other countries who can make up for it.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

What I meant was that American universities now lean towards boring lectures, rote memorization of (STEM and social science/humanities) facts and regurgitation of these facts on tests.

I know a few universities working to move away from that model, but you're right. Guess I didn't make my point very artfully.

Thing is, I'm down with rote learning - at the elementary level and tapering off at the secondary level. Simply put, you have to learn things before you can think about them critically, and I see that as foundational. When I was teaching, I saw a lot of smart kids who were just getting buried because no one ever went over the basics with them and made them stick. You have to learn the rules before you can learn to break them.

Not to say everything in elementary and secondary education should be rote and regurgitation, and I think extracurriculars really break that mold, but it has a place.

That being said, I don't think rote learning has much of a place in higher education, as information synthesis should be operating at a more mature level at that time. The big goal of "college" should really be high level and inquisitive thought.

If folks just want to prepare only for jobs and trades, that's what professional, vocational, and technical schools are for - and they have a valuable place in society as well.